Sunday, May 17, 2009

STI: Old-school goodness

May 17, 2009

Old-school goodness

Dig into food served hot with generous sauces and good service at Italian restaurant Capricci

By Wong Ah Yoke 


Capricci, a new Italian restaurant in Tanjong Pagar Road, is a bit of an anomaly. At a time when most Western restaurants here are leaning towards modern, cross-cultural cooking, the week-old eatery is a throwback to old-fashioned rusticity.


You can't tell that from its looks, though. The restaurant, which occupies the space vacated by Oso Ristorante after it moved to Bukit Pasoh last year, looks like any other contemporary eatery with its unfussy furniture in sober tones of grey and brown.


But when it comes to the cooking, it is definitely old-school - in a good way.


The presentation, too, is not photogenic the way a lot of modern food styling is, where half the things on the plate are there for aesthetic reasons. Here, sauces are splashed generously on meats and reduced balsamic vinegar squirted over plates with gleeful abandon. The results may look a bit messy and very last century but the food tastes good.


Also, minimal styling means the food is delivered to the table fast and, more importantly, hot.


That in no small part contributes to the success of dishes such as a souffle of parmesan and wild mushroom with melted fontina cheese ($20). The monotonous cream- coloured mound sitting in a pool of melted cheese would be a disaster lukewarm. But the heat opens up layers of appealing flavours in the mouth. There are notes of mushrooms with hints of parmesan and everything is coated by the velvety creaminess of the fonduta.


Lovers of seafood will undoubtedly fall head over heels with the mixed seafood soup, Tuscany style ($18). It is packed with shellfish such as clams, mussels, prawns and flower crab. There is even a king prawn on top of two normal-sized ones.


There is more seafood than soup, which makes the dish wonderful value for its price. I wish there is more soup too because it is so delicious but I guess one cannot have everything. Besides, you would want to leave room for the rest of the meal.


There is a good selection of pastas, though the one I tried is not much to my liking. The ear-shaped pasta with homemade pork sausage, grated pecorino cheese and black pepper ($20) is not quite what I expected because, instead of having lumps of sausage, the meat is all broken up. So it is more like a sauce with minced meat ground too fine. But if you do not mind that or the strong-smelling cheese, you would not find much fault with the al dente pasta that is served piping hot.


What I cannot fault one bit is my main course of pistachio-crusted lamb cutlets with a limoncello cream and salad ($42). The lamb is nicely undercooked, with the meat rare and juicy. But it is the broken pieces of toasted pistachios that make it memorable by providing crunch and a toasted nutty flavour to the dish. Even the pieces that fall off the meat taste wonderful with the salad greens sharing the plate.


Then there is the wonderful limoncello cream sauce with its subtle notes of lemon freshness surfacing through the creamy flavours with delightful results.


I also tried the king prawns sauteed in a sauce of grape and rosemary with diced pan-fried vegetables ($32), which would have been rather ordinary except for the halved grapes tossed into the dish. They add a nice sweetness to the firm prawn meat and add dimension to what is essentially grilled prawns.


Among the desserts, I am most intrigued by the custard of fresh vanilla sticks from Madagascar and yellow pumpkins ($10). It is actually pumpkin creme brulee and though the vanilla flavour is not as strong as the pumpkin's, it is delicious. It is also not smooth the way a custard normally is and the slightly floury texture reminds me of local kueh.


Another thing that Capricci gets right is the professional service, from the warm greeting to the equally fond farewell. At the table, service is just as good. When you mention while ordering that you will be sharing a dish, it is automatically served divided into equal portions among the diners.


That does not happen here often, even in upmarket restaurants. So kudos to Capricci for the effort.




Mixed seafood soup, Tuscany style ($18)

Great value with the generous amount of seafood. And the soup is delicious too.



27 Tanjong Pagar Road, tel: 6221-6761

Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily

Food: ****

Service: ****

Ambience: *** 1/2

Price: Budget about $80 per person, without drinks

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